Artemis Society International
Section 6.
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Royalties for Volunteer Labor

6. Royalties for Volunteer Labor

One concept we're puzzling over is how to assure that contributors are rewarded if their work is used to earn a profit. One cannot patent an idea, and we can't sell it to buy spaceship parts, but real products can be sold.

One example that came up in the Huntsville conference was the idea of members of the Simulation Technical Committee writing a full-up sim for engineering development and crew and flight controller training. The project really, really needs that, and a fully verified simulator would save the project big bucks. But a full-up sim is just a couple steps away from a really fun computer game, and maybe even a virtual reality experience; it has commercial as well as technical value.

The idea is to have the Simulation Technical Committee chairman keep track of who contributes how much code to that project. Then, if the Artemis Society is able to license use of the code in commercial products, the original authors could share in the royalties. Some folks prefer that their volunteer work be purely pro bono publico, so they can sign all royalty rights back to the Artemis Society to go into the spacecraft development fund. Others can't afford that luxury, so they would earn royalties from their work, and be very welcome to do so.

Another example would be the case of an artist who contributes work to illustrate the mission for the Society's outreach programs. That same art might be used on a calendar based on the Artemis Project. For preparing a nifty briefing or decorating the web site, it's clearly pro bono work; but if someone is going to earn a profit, then the artist should at least have the opportunity to earn royalties from the work.

This idea is a good one because everybody wins. In addition to the altrusitic motivation, there is a financial motivation for contributing to the project. The important, and most difficult, part is keeping track of who contributed what; and perhaps dealing with the fact that not all Society activities are things that produce potentially marketable products. On top of all that, it reduces capital required for the Artemis Project to develop some of the products, which of course gets us to the moon all that much faster.

The financial situation gets a bit complex because the Artemis Society is a non-profit educational and scientific foundation. "Non-profit" means proceeds of the Society's business cannot inure to the benefit of the members (or stockholders, but the Society has no stockholders, just a board of directors). All proceeds go toward furthering the Society's goals. However, it does not mean the Society cannot pay reasonable royalties, wages to paid employees (currently there aren't any of these, either), or fees for services. The important word there is "reasonable."

And of course any such payments would be taxable income for the individual, which means the governments win, too.

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